Honour a twist
Being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit was a turn of events Dr Deborah Challinor did not see coming.
‘‘It was a real shock as I opened the letter,’’ the 59 year old said of the moment she discovered she was being honoured for services to literature and historical research in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
‘‘I won’t tell you precisely the words that came out of my mouth, because your subeditor will just have to edit those words out of the story anyway.
‘‘It’s a huge, huge honour ... I have been shoving out books for 18 years now, and it feels really nice to be recognised. And it is really good that they are recognising commercial fiction. It’s a big win for commercial fiction in New Zealand.’’
Challinor would need little introduction for many of this country’s readinginclined. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, she was New Zealand’s highest selling author. All of her historical novels - including her ongoing series The Smuggler’s Wife and Convict Girls - have appeared in the top five of the New Zealand fiction bestseller list, six reaching the number one spot.
She has also written nonfiction: Grey Ghosts, based on the research she did for her PhD at Waikato University on New Zealand soldiers and the Vietnam War, and Who’ll Stop the Rain? which is about the effects of Agent Orange on the children of Vietnam veterans.
The Huntly-born writer who now lives in Maeroa, Hamilton, says that while book sales might make her the country’s most successful writer, it is a success she has a hard time relating to.
‘‘It sort of feels like it’s someone else who is having that success. I spend so much of my time writing on my own, so much time shutting myself away.’’
While she is now able to make a tidy living from her books - ‘‘I call it my 18-year overnight success’’ - it has taken Challinor a lot of work to get there.
‘‘I treat it like a job, just like anyone else with a job. I get up in the morning and I will go to my office about 8.30am or 9am and write. And I will keep working until about 6pm most days. I’ll work in the weekend if I am behind on a deadline.’’
Because Challinor’s works are in the historical fiction genre and she prides herself on her accuracy, that means a lot of research time needs to be factored into the equation.
Author Deborah Challinor has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and historical research.